Our central heating is of utmost importance in the cold, winter months but many of us pretty much forget about it over the summer as long as we’re getting hot water. However, as reactive heating engineers, one of our busiest times is the autumn and that’s because boiler problems often rear their ugly heads when people start to turn their heating on again as the temperature cools.
The good news is this is avoidable. Just attend to a few simple things over the summer and you will maximise the probability of an issue-free switch on in September/October.
The first thing you need to do once warmer weather means you no longer need the heating is to decide the best way to turn it off. There are more options here than you might think: you could turn the boiler off completely and rely on an alternative method for hot water, such as an immersion heater. You could turn the boiler to hot water only, thus turning the heating off. You could leave your heating on but turn all the radiators off using their thermostatic valves. Or you could leave the heating turned on at the boiler but set the thermostat very low so it would only come on if the temperature drops right down. But which is best?
From an economical point of view, it’s cheaper to heat water using your boiler than an immersion heater so that’s not the best way. The others are really about personal choice. Turning the heating off completely means you don’t have to worry about it coming on when you’re not there and don’t need it (eg if on holiday). If you do this, turn all the thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to max as this reduces the chance of the pins sticking to the seat of the valves (which can prevent them opening when turned back on).
Leaving the heating on but turning the TRVs off can be useful if you still want some heat in certain rooms, such as on a towel warmer in a bathroom. You may need to adjust the timer if you do this as you would only probably want this for a short period each day and consider turning it off when you are away on holiday.
Leaving the heating on but turning the thermostat down can help keep the boiler ticking over during the summer but you do risk it coming on occasionally when you don’t really want it.
Even though you don’t need the heating over the summer, and this may seem counter intuitive when the weather is hot, you would really be doing your boiler a favour by just turning it on for a few minutes once a month. A boiler has a number of moving parts, and they risk seizing up if they sit completely idle for months (this is the most common issue we see in September/October). Turning the heating on, just for a brief time, keeps them moving and vastly reduces the risk of problems in the autumn.
Of course, if you have left the heating on in any of the ways outlined in item 1, you won’t have to do this.
Boilers really need servicing annually and, in theory, it doesn’t really matter when you do it as long as it’s roughly the same time of year. That said, there are some advantages to doing it in the summer. Firstly, heating engineers are much less busy than in the winter so it’s easier to book an appointment and engineers are less likely to have to reschedule due to emergencies. It’s also more convenient if you do need parts fitting or choose to conduct some proactive maintenance (more on that in a moment) as you’re not reliant on it for heating while work is being undertaken. Should you choose to replace the boiler for any reason, this is also easier in the summer for the same reasons.
Boilers are complex machines, and any mechanical or technical equipment will benefit from good maintenance (think about a car and regular oil changes). As a minimum this means an annual service but there are also other things you can do to keep it working efficiently and extend its lifespan. This ranges from things you can do yourself, such as bleeding your radiators, or things your heating engineer can do for you such as adding inhibitor (prevents sludge building up) or conducting a powerflush (flushes out sludge that has already built up). These can often be done at the same time as servicing your boiler.
Just as summer is a good time to get work done on the boiler, it’s a great time to consider whether you could benefit from getting a bit ‘smarter’. OFTEC (the trade body that represents the oil heating industry) has been urging people to adopt smart systems for some time now. Smart thermostats such as Nest and Hive give you much more control over your heating, including being able to control it from anywhere via your phone (see more about smart thermostats here). If you don’t already have a smart meter, you may also want to consider this as well (see the pros and cons of a smart meter).
If you need any advice about any of these things or would like to book a boiler service or other boiler maintenance, please call us on 0800 032 6478 or complete the enquiry form.
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